I don’t know about you, but this was a second round matchup that I hoped we would see. I figured the Celtics would get by the Knicks and the Heat would eliminate the 76ers, but now that both have actually happened and this series is here, I’m excited.
Others that may have also been anticipating this series did so because they feel there’s a rivalry between the Heat and Celtics. Allow me to clear that up: there is no rivalry between these two teams. There’s a rivalry between the Celtics and LeBron. It began a few years ago when James was still in Cleveland and it’s very apparent to me that they still don’t like each other. Those Cleveland, Boston series were very intense and that has carried over to this year. You knew the LeBron-Celtics hatred was still alive when they played their very first game this season, which drew record viewership. That made every regular season game thereafter a must see.
Boston looked very good in the first round. That was thanks in part to the fact that they were up against an injury ravaged Knicks team. They seemed to have dried their tears regarding the Kendrick Perkins trade because since that deal, they weren’t they same team. It was almost as if they were pouting. Against the Knicks, they appeared to pick up right where they left off when Perk was still on the roster. They looked like they were clicking on all cylinders.
But what seemed to be working best for them was the play of Rajon Rondo. He absolutely had his way against the Knicks. If he grabbed a rebound in the backcourt, it was just about guaranteed that he would take it coast to coast for a layup. That happened repeatedly in that series. It makes you wonder: is there anyone on Miami’s roster at the PG position that would be able to jump in front of Rondo and slow him down? No.
The Celtics are an older team but still have many weapons. Even though he’s not half the athlete LeBron is, Paul Pierce usually plays him tough. Paul is slow, but very savvy. And when you sprinkle in the fact that he’s a world class flopper, it makes him a tough cover. I expect that to frustrate LeBron. Hell, it frustrates me watching from home. As usual, when LeBron takes it to the hole, he’ll be met with some very physical fouls. That was the case late in the season when Jermaine O’Neal lowered his shoulder when LeBron was driving to the rim. This is Jermaine’s first year as a Celtic and he has already bought into the “we don’t like LeBron” theory.
Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade will also be an interesting matchup at the 2-guard spot. Ray Allen runs off screens better than anyone I’ve seen since Reggie Miller. I’m sure that will give Wade problems. It gives anyone problems. But if Ray goes cold, then it won’t matter. During last year’s playoffs, we saw an incredible stretch were Ray Allen went ice cold and he was subsequently rendered uselss. Yes, he’s made more 3-pointers than anyone else ever has and it’s a record that will never be broken, but even he dies by the 3 sometimes. And he’s incapable of guarding Wade 1-on-1.
I think Bosh will have his hands full with Garnett. KG plays physical and Bosh is the furthest thing from. If KG puts a body on Bosh and gets in his head, he should win that matchup. At the Center position, Jermaine O’Neal may have another mini-field day like he did against the Knicks. Also, if Shaq comes back, it will make things interesting for Miami. And Mike Bibby, Mario Chalmers and Eddie House combined can’t stay in front of Rondo.
This will be a very fun and physical series and tips off on Sunday. The matchups seem to favor the Celtics, but that’s why you play the game because you never know. Conventional wisdom would make you inclined to pick Boston, especially since they won the season series 3 – 1. But I wonder if they looked so good in the first round simply because they’re a much better team than the Knicks? We’ll find out. Before the season began, I thought the Heat would win the East so I feel inclined to stay with that pick but they certainly have their hands full with Boston.
If you’re looking for your everyday, predictable basketball talk, then go somewhere else, because Kevin Burke of The Kevin Burke Project brings provocative, thought provoking content about basketball as only he can. Kevin also hosts The Hoop Doctors weekly podcast show, which you can subscribe to for free on iTunes. Follow Kevin on Twitter and Facebook